Abstract: Adaptation of reef corals to climate change is an issue of much debate, and often viewed as too slow a process to be of relevance over decadal time scales. This notion is based on the long sexual generation times typical for some coral species. However, the importance of somatic mutations during asexual reproduction and growth on evolution and adaptation (i.e., cell lineage selection) is rarely considered. Here we review the existing literature on cell lineage selection and show that the scope for somatic mutations to arise in the coral animal and associated Symbiodinium is large. For example, we estimate that ~100 million somatic mutations can arise within a branching Acropora coral colony of average size. Similarly, the large population sizes and rapid turn-over times of in hospite Symbiodinium likely result in considerable numbers of somatic mutations. While the fate of new mutations depends on many factors, including ploidy level and force and direction of selection, we argue that they likely play a key role in the evolution of reef corals.
Keywords: coral; Symbiodinium; adaptation; somatic mutations; cell lineage selection; climate change
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Van Oppen, M.J.H.; Souter, P.; Howells, E.J.; Heyward, A.; Berkelmans, R. Novel Genetic Diversity Through Somatic Mutations: Fuel for Adaptation of Reef Corals? Diversity 2011, 3, 405-423.
Van Oppen MJH, Souter P, Howells EJ, Heyward A, Berkelmans R. Novel Genetic Diversity Through Somatic Mutations: Fuel for Adaptation of Reef Corals? Diversity. 2011; 3(3):405-423.
Van Oppen, Madeleine J. H.; Souter, Petra; Howells, Emily J.; Heyward, Andrew; Berkelmans, Ray. 2011. "Novel Genetic Diversity Through Somatic Mutations: Fuel for Adaptation of Reef Corals?" Diversity 3, no. 3: 405-423.